[The following does not necessarily reflect the opinion(s) of anyone who works for, or who has ever worked or volunteered for, Phish.net or The Mockingbird Foundation. It is dedicated to @RSTurner, who requested it. So blame him. It's entirely his fault. -Ed.]
“ÍT comes in threes,” some say about bad news.
First, there were several vicious, cowardly attacks on a few fans at the Gorge in July, possibly by one or more white supremacists who were apparently in attendance. Then there was the seemingly last minute cancellation in late August of what was promoted to be, and likely would have been, Phish’s greatest festival ever, Curveball, which led (among other things) to “Curvivors” commiserating for weeks about their (and our) unfortunate—and for many, truly heart-breaking—curveballing. And, now, there is the fake-covering of a fake album by a fake band with a fake backstory, in the all-hallowed second set of Halloween: a set with a legendary history, a history replete with Great Performances that are still wondrous to this day, years —even decades— later.
Just kidding. Seriously, spectacular creative risks can reap substantial rewards, and the risktakers are often deservedly applauded for their audacity and skill. As Phish should be and has been and likely will continue to be. But will the music of Kasvot Växt, of 10/31/18-2, be spoken of one day along with the likes of 10/31/96-2, 10/31/98-2, 10/31/95-2, or the more recent, brilliant, Chilling, Thrilling set? Let it be come to say, yeah, probably so probably not.
At times ingeniously gooftarded to be sure, the Kasvot Växt ("KV") set nevertheless rarely achieves musical lowlights that are so stupendously awful they deserve repeated listenings simply for their laugh-generating value. Nothing in the set, for example, is even vaguely competitive with the sublime genius of a “Clam Caravan” or a “Corn Wine.” Which is to say, to paraphrase an old, folksy, Scandinavian platitude, sometimes the set's music is "justt krapp."
Oh come on, man, why be such a h8r? And if intended as prog-parody, isn’t it unreasonable to criticize the KV songs at all, as they appear to have been intended to be silly, if not outrageously so, consistent with so many Phish songs before them, and are therefore to be esteemed if only for this reason alone? (See, e.g., “Buffalo Bill,” “Sleeping Monkey,” “Dog Log,” and dozens of other songs one can probably randomly pick out among this handy list.) And another thing: ARE WE COME TO ALL AGREE on kudos to the Phish for the koncept and riskk takken, yes?
So, in a similar spirit, here are come to my two øre:
"Turtle In The Clouds": If you’ve ever dreamily looked-up at the sky and admired the awe-inspiringly hypnotic beauty of ever-changing cloud formations on a gorgeous spring day, then this terrifyingly bad song about turtles in clouds will make you despondent. And then angry. You’ll wish that none of these adorable little guys ever make it into the clouds, because LIFE IS MEANINGLESS, and you are nothing but dust, and to dust you shall return.
“Now I’ve got something in my shoe”?!? Did Trey seriously just sing that line? No, NOT seriously. No, of course not: no one would ever sing that line seriously. Perhaps the best thing about this horrifying song, other than its false ending (which hilariously adds further insult to injury because GUESS WHAT!? THE SONG DOESN'T END HERE!!) and Page and Trey’s often Camel-esque melodic lines, is that the band members take turns on vocal leads, courageously sharing the blame. This final effort somewhat assuages one’s newfound hatred of cloud-turtles. Somewhat.
"Stray Dog": Whether or not you’ve ever wanted a song thrown up against a wall and shot, prepare to be befuddled by this masterpiece-of-shit. Why couldn’t they have just played “Dog Log” for an hour!? In any event, dog rescue is very important and to be supported; I will therefore not contend that this is one “stray dog” that should be—painlessly and with dignity—put down. And besides, @JesusHschvice already made such a despicable remark on Twitter. Shame on him. Please tweet ugly things at him (and unfollow or block).
"Everything Is Hollow": Some things are better left unheard. This is the one where, when listening for the first time, you might wonder if the entire band labored for minute upon minute, and hour upon hour, and day upon day, to create the lamest “song” that has ever been conceived in the history of recorded music, in order to make this literal joke of a set an even more farcical prog-parody. You’d be right.
In the "song," Page repeatedly sings, “Bright white light shining right between the eyes.” Translation: you have been blinded by this song’s transcendent disdain for all that is Good and Holy. Be sure to remember to say please and thank you, and be kind to those less fortunate than yourself (a group that necessarily includes everyone who finds this song appealing in any way, shape, or form).
WACTOOB: An LOL-dumb improvement as we crawl further into the set, “We Are Come To Outlive Our Brains" (WACTOOB) is worth hearing again and again. It’s nifty and upbeat and major-key-happy-happy, with some odd vocal lines and catchy melodic lyrical refrains, even assuming Phish vocals aren’t that great, and that “I’m the glue in your magnet” and “we will come to outlive our brains” are nonsensical, and justify every negative opinion voiced about Phish lyrics ever, under any and every circumstance. “Nine cubes,” you say? Whatever. Let’s hope that a future, similarly charming WACTOOB makes the 20+ min jam chart.
"Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.": While “This is what space smells like, YOU WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER WHERE YOU WERE” is a chorus “to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” who cares about lyrics anyway! We’re Phish fans after all. Anyway, instead of immediately causing consternation and nausea, this song invites the listener to warmly reminisce about ‘70’s sing-along rockers, before inspiring debilitatingly painful and bloody ear-worm-diarrhea, as Fish concludes the coda’s vocals. Some might call this a "win," their brains, outlived.
"The Final Hurrah": Was “The Penultimate Hurrah” deemed too sophisticated a title, or is Trey reserving it for a new TAB song? He does let fly some Eddie Van Halen -esque trilling in this one, while Fish growls out "FACEPLANT INTO RAWWWWWWWK." So one must call this a WIN, too, right, albeit a very silly one.
"Play By Play": Its opening measures are fleetingly reminiscent of “Montana” from the Bozeman “Tweezer.” But lyrically, this is a metaphysically bankrupt song, even needlessly disturbing (“Perception is spoon fed, I open my mouth”!?), though perhaps less so than a sperm bank that‘s been closed down—by both criminal and civil authorities—for fraud. The lyric “I hope someone notices” is annoyingly repeated ad nauseum, and the music begins to plod on, and on, and on, etc., along with it. Meanwhile, a dancing wook’s flailing dreads smack your girlfriend in the face at her first show, in time to this song, and she, too, hopes someone notices. And murders the wook. Please don’t listen to this if you suffer from depression. I BEG YOU. YOUR LIFE IS TOO IMPORTANT. It has meaning, for Christ's sake.
"Death Don't Hurt Very Long": Oh Hell yeah. Follow-up a song that makes me want to kill myself with a potent reminder that I can end it all quickly and without suffering? Great. In any event bet we can all agree that this —objectively— is this fake band’s best fake song, no? Morbid lyrics complement morbid music, that’s by turns death-march/stomp-y, and funktastic, with Page killin’ it on the clav, and Trey soloing soulfully and passionately over fearsome accompaniment by Mike and Fish. M.O.R.E.O.F.T.H.I.S.P.L.E.A.S.E.
"Cool Amber and Mercury": Does this song remind you of a Bob Weir tune you never wanted to hear again, or perhaps part of one you do, e.g. the coda of “Saint of Circumstance,” but slowed-down? This is a "BOTT"-like, very groovy tune, and I suspect we’ll hear another version at some point. Maybe it’ll help bring-in 2019 on NYE. “Cool Amber” -> "BOTT" -> “Cool Amber”? I’m a’fer it.
"Passing Through": While admittedly this one did little for me at first, I am now in love with Mike’s bass lines in this tune, and greatly dig the improvisational segment. The “heyyyyy, way ohh, way ohh” full-band chorus (if that’s in fact the lyric they’re singing and harmonizing on) is silly of course, but it’s difficult for me—as a Phish fan for thirty years now—not to appreciate the jam in this version, and the jam potential of this song. I also kinda like the unaccompanied, “NFA”-esque vocal coda, and it was cool that those in attendance kept the “Heyyyyy way-ohh way-ohh” chorus going a bit, too. In fact at this point I’m probably ok with hearing this one cook for ten plus minutes going forward instead of “KDF,” which I’m cool with never hearing again.
In sum, if you were one of the phans successfully Dr. Gabel’d by this set, believing it to consist entirely of music to be treated with sober deference (rather than laughed at, or at least with), don’t be embarrassed. Professional, touring musicians who require $80+/ticket to entertain us are ordinarily expected to be taken seriously, particularly on arguably the most important evening other than 12/31 in any given year. Even jamband musicians.
All that said, the fact that the Kasvot Växt set garnered the (sometimes heated) discourse and nationwide attention that it did is a testament to Phish’s humor and genius. And regardless of whatever you might think of the fake KV songs, at least this fake set probably won’t ever be performed again by any band, even a real one. $0.02.
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